In what has become as common as hats on the ice after a player has scored three goals in a game, the famous playoff beard has made its return to San Jose. A hockey tradition since the late 70’s, the playoff beard generally starts when the team gets ready for their first game of the playoffs and continues until they are eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs or win the cup. For this year’s San Jose Sharks, let’s hope we see some big burly beards.
Just about everyone on the Sharks participates in the yearly superstition for no other reason than everyone else does it too.
“It’s been going on since I could grow facial hair,” said Mark Smith. “It’s something everyone does and I just go along with it. Some guys don’t like playing with one because it’s itchy and hot, but it doesn’t really bother me too much. Any excuse I have not to shave, I’ll do it.”
For some Sharks players, facial hair is a year-round thing. Players like Scott Parker, Joe Thornton
and Kyle McLaren generally always have some sort of hair on their face. McLaren took it to a whole new level in the last month of the season when he began his handlebar mustache look. For the playoffs, the handlebars have been kept intact, but now the rest of the beard is filling in.
“My handlebars was something new and now I’m just letting everything catch up,” said McLaren. “When I was young, I couldn’t really grow a good one. I’ve watched hockey growing up and it’s something everyone’s always done. It’s a tradition that keeps getting passed down for some reason. Some guys change it up, but I just go with the full beard to remember the past.”
Scott Thornton is also one for tradition, as he can be seen sporting the full beard, much to the chagrin of his family.
“I have no idea where the tradition started, but I don’t want to kick it, so I’ve embraced it,” said Thornton. “I know that the kids and the wife aren’t too happy about it, but so be it. I think playoffs are just a time when everybody just gets uglier and uglier as the days go by and we just kind of live with it.”
In fact, it’s not just the players who are getting “uglier and uglier.” Many front office personnel have embraced the tradition and are growing their own beards. And others, in an attempt to grow bushy beards, are stuck with just their peach fuzz.
“I haven’t grown a playoff beard since I went to the finals in the minor leagues 12 years ago,” said Sharks Equipment Manager Mike Aldrich. “We (the training staff) were guilted by Joe Thornton
to jump on board with the playoff beards. Kurt Harvey, Roy Sneesby (Aldrich’s assistants) and myself can pretty much grow a full beard over night. Wes Howard and Ray Tufts (of the training staff) are two weeks into this and struggling.”
Then there’s Patrick Marleau
, who is doing his own thing this year. Known for being able to grow a 5 o’clock shadow by Noon, Marleau has opted out of the playoff tradition this year in hopes of helping the team advance even further along in the playoffs than they did last season. Don’t let his current semi-beard fool you, though. It’ll soon be gone.
“Actually, I’ll be clean shaven come Sunday,” said the captain. “I went with the beard last playoffs and it got us far, but I just wanted to change things up this year.”
No matter whether they chose to grow one or not, there is no denying that the Sharks are fully aware of the playoff beard tradition. And come the middle of June, there could be some real scruffy looking hockey players roaming around HP Pavilion.
RALLY TOWELS IN FULL EFFECT
You didn’t think the rally towels would be put away just as the Sharks headed to the second round did you? For the next three home games, all Sharks fans in attendance will receive rally towels, just like they did in both games of the Western Conference Quarterfinals. The towel for Sunday is sponsored by Dave and Busters, Monday’s by Intersil and if need be, Game 5’s will be presented by SanDisk.
The Sharks will open up their series with the Edmonton Oilers on Sunday at 5 p.m. at HP Pavilion. The game can be seen on FSN-HD or heard on the Sharks Radio Network or sjsharks.com. Don’t forget, traffic will be heavy due to celebrations downtown. Come early and enjoy in all the pregame festivities at the block party that starts at 2 p.m. in front of HP Pavilion.